(Photo: Photo by Bob Wilkinson )
It happens every show.
A cheer for Clarence Clemons rocks the rafters during “Springsteen on Broadway” at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Bruce Springsteen speaks about his late bandmate, who passed away in June of 2011 at the age of 69, while performing the song “Tenth Avenue Free-out” in the music play.
“Nobody captured my audience’s imagination like Clarence,” says Springsteen, at the piano. “Standing side by side, we were badass, on any given night, two of the baddest asses on the planet. Clarence was as figure out of a rock ‘n’ roll storybook and together we told a story bigger than any of the ones I had written. A story where not only did Scooter and Big Man bust the city in half, but we remade the city.”
The “city” is Asbury Park.
“We remade the city, shaping it into the kind of place where our friendship would not be such a strange thing,” Springsteen says. “I still carry that story, the one the Big Man whispered in my ear, and I still carry the Big Man in my heart every night I walk out on stage.”
Clemons is gone, but he’s certainly not forgotten. Not on Broadway, not in the hearts of E Street Band fans, and most of all, not by his family, friends and loved ones. The 6th annual Big Man Bash, hosted by Clemons’ son, Nick Clemons, is 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 6 at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.
The Nick Clemons Band, Vince Martell from Vanilla Fudge, Stormin’ Norman Seldin, TC Tolliver, JT Bowen, Layonne Holmes, Sandy Mack and Friends, Joe Bonanno and the Godsons, the Eddie Testa Band, Jarod Clemons, Clemons’ son, and more will perform. Proceeds raised will be benefit the anti-bullying Kickin’ It Kids Center in Englishtown.
“We were looking at some of the PSAs my father did and one of his first was about bullying,” Nick Clemons said. “Also, we’re very impressed with the work the Kickin’ It Kids Center is doing.”
Kickin’ It Kids Center works with kids to “balance self-confidence, to be accountable for their actions and to positively intervene to help one another,” according the center’s web site, www.werekickinit.org.
Putting kids in a positive place was a lifelong pursuit for Clemons, who was a counselor for troubled children at the New Jersey Training School for Boys in Jamesburg from 1962 to 1970. His first wife, Jacqueline Clemons, Nick’s mom, was also a counselor there. She passed away in 2014 at the age of 73.
“It’s funny, both my parents were leaders in their own right, “ Nick Clemons said. “They led by example. Things that people take for granted today, they did it before — they practiced what they preached.”
1999: Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons at Continental Airlines Arena on July 15, 1999 (Photo: JAMES J. CONNOLLY/Staff photographer (~ nfs))
For that and more, Jan. 11 is now Clarence Clemons Day in the state of New Jersey. It’s his birthday.
Nick Clemons and a team is heralding the legacy of Clemons via www.bigmanwest.com, a portal for Clemons’ history and Clemons-related products like the upcoming Big Man’s Brew, and other charity endeavors.
“Fans can go there and inquire about the company and the ideas we have to recognize my father’s legacy,” Clemons said. “You’ll be able to connect with his history, what he did and how he lived.”
Not unlike the connection that happens on Broadway.
“He had that effect on people,” Clemons said.
BIG MAN’S BASH
WITH: Gonzo And his Band of Brothers featuring Layonne Holmes, Vince Martell from Vanilla Fudge, Stormin’ Norman Seldin, TC Tolliver, Sandy Mack and Friends, Joe Bonanno and the Godsons, Nick Clemons Band, JT Bowen, Eddie Testa Band, Killer Joe, Ken Dubman Band, Joey Evans Band, Step Aside, Scott Philipp and First of June, Jarod Clemons, WoodFish, Jo Wymer, Tommy Byrne, Dale Lakata, The Acoustic Project, Jimmy and Gene, Rand Hubiak, Mike Rocket Wurtle and John D. Moneka
WHEN: 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 6
WHERE: Stone Pony, 913 Ocean Ave., Asbury Park
TICKETS: $32 in advance/$37 at the door
Chris Jordan: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twittter: @chrisfhjordan